Jyoti Basu’s birth anniversary celebrated across Bengal

Kolkata, July 8 (IANS): Communist Patriarch and former West Bengal chief minister Jyoti Basu’s 98th birth anniversary – the first after the ouster of the Left Front government – was celebrated across the state Saturday.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee offered floral tributes at a portrait of the leader, who holds the record for the longest uninterrupted rule as chief minister in India with his 23-year stint in West Bengal, at the state secretariat Writers’ Buildings.

At the state assembly, an oil painting of Basu – one of the founding politburo members of the Communist Party of India-Marxist [CPI(M)]– was garlanded by Speaker Biman Banerjee, Industries Minister Partha Chatterjee and leader of the opposition Surjya Kanta Mishra.

A non-governmental organisation Pather Panchali, which held annual celebrations on this day at Basu’s residence Indira Bhavan when he was alive, organised a small function at the venue. Former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee, Forward Bloc state secretary Ashok Ghosh, other political leaders and a large number of schoolchildren took part.

Chatterjee demanded that Indira Bhavan, where Basu spent the last two decades of his life, be turned into a museum in his memory.

Recalling his close association with Basu, Chatterjee said: ‘He always used to say that politics was a means to serve the people. He always said political rivalry should not give rise to personal rivalry.’

Chatterjee, who was expelled from the CPI(M) in mid 2008 for refusing to heed the party diktat to step down from the Lok Sabha Speaker’s post after the Left withdrew support to the Manmohan Singh-led United Progressive Alliance government over the US-India civil nuclear deal, said people will never forget Basu.

‘I appeal to everybody that we may have political differences, but that should not lead to hatred or violence,’ he said.

Chatterjee said there was a need to convert Indira Bhavan – a state government guest house – into a museum.

‘Indira Bhavan is no ordinary government building. It should be protected as a national heritage. It should be converted into a museum in his name so that coming generations get to know his life, struggles and achievements,’ he said.

Born July 8, 1914, in Kolkata to a wealthy family, Basu took to communism in London. On his return to India, he joined the undivided Communist Party of India (CPI) and plunged into the Left movement.

Basu made his debut in electoral politics in 1946. He was elected to the state assembly 11 times, losing only once – in the hugely controversial 1972 elections.

After the CPI split in 1964, he joined the CPI(M) and was elected to its first central committee and politburo.

He was West Bengal chief minister from 1977 until he retired in late 2000 due to ill health.

The last of the nine founding politburo members of CPI(M), Basu almost became India’s prime minister in 1996 at the head of a centre-Left United Front government.
But the CPI(M) vetoed the proposal, forcing him to dub the party’s decision a ‘historical blunder’.

He died January 17, 2010.